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Gwinnett police: Gainesville driver was erratic

Police account, witnesses tell different story than driver in fatal I-85 crash

POSTED: April 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

A Gainesville man drove his car erratically near the median wall on the left side of an HOV lane on Interstate 85 before veering out of control and triggering a wreck that killed four people Monday, police say in a report released Friday.

The Gwinnett County Police accident report contradicts the statements of the attorney for Cody Rhoden, the 20-year-old tire shop worker who remains jailed on four counts of vehicular homicide and hit and run.

A police diagram of the wreck shows Rhoden's 2002 Acura RSX sideswiping the Ford Excursion limo driven by Mark Anthony Gay on the left-front corner, sending the limo into a spin before it flipped at least four times, ejecting four occupants.

The accident happened on I-85 North near Indian Trail Road as Rhoden and a friend were driving home from an Atlanta Braves game. Rhoden's attorney, Jeffrey Sliz, said they had left the game early.

Limo driver Gay, 44, and passengers Whitney Randle, 20, her brother, Alexander Randle, 14, and Whitney Randle's son, Kayden Alexander Randle-Finley, 1, were killed in the crash. All are from Lawrenceville. Gay was driving the Randle family home from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

On Friday, Whitney and Alexander Randle's father, Demetrius Randle, 49, remained in the intensive care unit at Gwinnett Medical Center.

Whitney Randle's fiance, 22-year-old Latavius Finley, and her mother, Falleen Randle, were injured in the accident and have been discharged from the hospital.

The accident report includes the full name of a passenger in Rhoden's car, identified as 23-year-old Josh Kitchens of Gainesville. He has not been charged in connection with the wreck, but was jailed on unrelated charges Thursday.

Sliz said during a news conference Wednesday that his client's car was struck on the right side by a dark-colored SUV, had the right-front tire go down and went into an uncontrollable slide across six lanes of traffic.

According to police, witnesses said Rhoden's Acura was seen "traveling at a very high rate of speed" prior to the 8:45 p.m. collision Monday.

Rhoden's car was left in the parking lot of a motel near the wreck scene. Rhoden's father, Carmon Rhoden, said this week that he picked his son up and left a business card with the motel's night manager.

According to the report, the father contacted Gwinnett police early Tuesday after seeing a news bulletin about the accident. Cody Rhoden, accompanied by his attorney, went in for questioning Tuesday night and was arrested shortly after midnight Wednesday.

Carmon Rhoden claims that his son did not realize he had left the scene of a fatal accident. He also said his son was not driving recklessly.

Sulianna Chandler, the sister of Falleen Randle, said she was told by her sister that Rhoden tried to pass the limousine on the left-hand shoulder of the HOV lane.

"She heard him coming because of his muffler, and knew something was up, because he was trying to pass on the wrong side," Chandler said. "He scraped between them and the median, then he cut in front of them," she said.

"It's just tragic, it's just awful," Chandler said. "It never should have happened."

Chandler called the news conference called by the Rhoden family and their lawyer "ridiculous."
Sliz did not return messages seeking comment Friday.



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